Because many of you have been with me as I have been “growing up” in my motherhood, I am elated (and only slightly terrified) to reveal the next chapter: We’re moving to Africa. (And yes, we thought we’d take the kids.)
Oh, the irony. Remember this post, about how God developed contentment in me to change the world from suburbia, after all my dreams of going overseas? I think God needed me to come to that conclusion—to trust Him wherever He placed me; to realize that ministry was just as critical!—before He grew the seeds He’d planted for overseas work with the impoverished.
But when my husband first asked, “What do you think about pursuing ministry overseas?” I was, well, shocked. And not just because of that whole four-kids-aged-two-to-seven thing. Because I thought overseas working with the impoverished was a dream on the “Probably Not, But We’ll Find Out Why in Heaven” shelf.
Still, months (and another story) later, on our exploratory trip to Uganda, I was overwhelmed. The poverty stretches across such a beautiful country, starting right outside of the airport. (This post from my personal blog tells more about what God was working in us on this incredible trip.)
Standing outside of our brick hut on the Nile one evening—the most stunning place I’ve ever been—I was a sobbing mess. Everything is harder in Uganda. You can’t drink the water. The plumbing is generally terrible and occasionally embarrassing. The mosquitoes could give you malaria. There are few apples or berries or lettuce or air conditioners. And in the capital city of two million, there are six traffic lights. I felt the weight of what God seemed to be asking of us: Us, who were performing gymnastics to juggle regular life in our calm little neighborhood back home.
But God pulled me to Hebrews 11, and to Psalm 23. His promises for those who live by faith are breathtaking. And His goodness and mercy will follow my family and me all of the days of my life. That’s even if the worst would happen to us. In truth, His plans are bigger than my life and my family.
This was emphasized when Richard, a local Ugandan, captivated me with a story from his childhood. He and his family had spent a night in the bush fleeing some tribal rivalries. One tribe was killing fathers in order to make their sons child soldiers. When he told me how old he was, I was surprised: Honestly, he looked older. I mentioned, “You’ve seen a lot in your days, Richard.”
He responded, “Most Ugandan men have.”
I thought of my sweet sons I’d just showed on my camera. Aiming to groom them into godly young men of courage who’ll lead their families, I am aware of how God seems to hardwire boys. They’re constantly seeking out small competitions and battles that reinforce their ability to conquer and guide and protect. Maybe it’s determining the highest stair step they can jump off without breaking their little blonde squashes open, or maybe it’s another battle between the Nerf sword and the Nerf battle axe. But these little feats gradually instill a sense of “I can.”
Yet Ugandan men, in this naive, Caucasian American female’s estimation, are constantly hearing, You can’t. You can’t provide for your family. You can’t protect them. Richard practically pleaded with me that his country’s greatest need is for its men to step up and lead their countries and their wives and their children, loving them well.
So I’m excited to tell you that my family is moving to Uganda in January. Our new organization, Engineering Ministries International (eMi), focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Its east Africa branch serves eight countries, four of them among the top ten poorest countries in the world. My husband will—get this! –be doing construction management of orphanages, schools for underprivileged kids, water and sanitation systems, stuff like that. He’ll do it with local labor teams, who he can build as men, evangelizing them and discipling them in fatherhood and in marriage.
And when I surface from the initial tidal wave of adjustments, along with helping out eMi, I hope to continue writing for MomLifeToday. I can only be awed by the adventure God’s been writing all along.
As for the kids—this has been a priceless journey. We’ve been having great talks about what it looks like to really help people in need. We’re having a lot of open dialogue, counting the cost together and also turning to God’s promises and opportunities for faith. This is God’s calling for them, too. At this point, they’re excited. And they’re at better ages to adjust than their parents…!
I recently heard Francis Chan exhort believers to make sure we’re doing something God-sized enough that if He doesn’t show up, you look bad. Um, mission accomplished. We are so in over our heads.
May I ask you to pray for us?
Janel Breitenstein graduated summa cum laude from John Brown University and began her career with NavPress, where she worked on The Message Bible. After having four children she resumed her professional career (around her momlife) by serving as a writer for FamilyLife. In January of 2012 Janel and her husband, John, packed up their family of six and moved to Uganda to serve with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization that focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Join us as we all learn first hand, through Janel’s posts, what it’s like to go from suburban America, to answer God’s call in Africa!